Optical and Electronic Materials and Nanomaterials

Optical and electronic materials and nanomaterials include both organic and inorganic, as well as both bulk and nanoscale forms of materials that can be used in devices for the conversion of light to electricity, and in novel electronic and plasmonic devices. Sixteen research groups from the Departments of Applied Mathematics, Chemistry, Mechanical and Materials Engineering and Physics & Astronomy as well as the Robarts Research Institute engage in these areas of material research. The scope of research spans the development, for example of novel nanomaterials for use as magnetic resonance imaging contrast agents, the preparation of carbon-based and organic nanomaterials and their use for the fabrication of optical and electronic devices, including thin film transistors and solar cells and modelling particles and dynamic processes in complex fluids. Meet our researchers and become familiar with the ground-breaking research in optical and electronic materials and nanomaterials at Western.


Robert Bartha

Robarts Research Institute
519 661-2111 ext 24039
Characterization of nanomaterials for use as imaging contrast agents.

Dr. Bartha's program involves the characterization of novel nanomaterials for use as magnetic resonance imaging contrast agents.  In particular, the characterization and development of methods to detect nanomaterials with greater sensitivity using a mechanism called chemical exchange saturation transfer.  The use of this mechanism provides opportunities to utilize nanomaterials to report physiological conditions such as temperature and pH in biological systems.

Styliani Constas

ChB 071
519 661-2111 ext 86338
Molecular simulations of phase transformations of titanium dioxide nanotubes and nanorods; disintegration mechanisms of charged liquid nanodroplets;  chemical reactions in clusters.

Systems with dimensions in the nanometer range are studied by molecular simulations and analytical theories. The systems are modelled on atomic scale using different levels of description that range from quantum chemical to empirical in order to capture features defining the properties of the systems. The properties that are studied are phase transformations, conformational changes of biological molecules and other polymers, solvation, reactions in clusters/aerosols, disintegration mechanisms of charged nanodroplets, and diffusion of drugs.

John Corrigan

Chemistry Building, Rm. 16
519 661-2111 ext 86387
nanoclusters and nanoparticles, semiconductor, X-ray crystallography. 

Dr. Corrigan develops methodologies for the controlled assembly of nanocluster (crystallographically characterized) and nanoparticle semiconductor complexes. Nanometer sized, functionalized architectures are prepared and specific luminescence and sensor properties are incorporated into (or onto) the frameworks via a small molecule precursor approach. 

Colin Denniston

Middlesex College, Rm. 266
519 661-2111 ext 88791
multiscale modelling of nanostructured soft materials.

The Denniston group's research focuses on modelling particles and dynamic processes in complex fluids.  They study systems involving micro- and nano-scale objects, soft colloids or polymers for instance, in a complex fluid such as a liquid crystal.  An important aspect of their work is the development of models and multi-scale computer simulation techniques to investigate these systems. 

Zhifeng Ding

Material Science Addition, Rm 0203
Scanning Probe Microscopies, spectroelectrochemistry and other instrumental analyses: toward optoelectronic, biological, pharmaceutical and environmental applications.

Dr. Ding’s research group is applying modern analytical methods such as electrochemistry, spectroscopy and microscopy to multidisciplinary research. His team specializes in the development and applications of scanning electrochemical microscopy (SECM), Raman microspectroscopy (RMS), atomic force microscopy (AFM), near-field scanning optic microscopy (NSOM), electrochemiluminescence (ECL), and their combination. He is applying these techniques to cell imaging, electroluminescence and the development solar cells.

Giovanni Fanchini

Physics & Astronomy Building, Rm. 229
519 661-2111 ext 86238
Optoelectronic devices from carbon nanotubes and graphene, development of new optical techniques for characterizing nanomaterials, solid-state electron spin resonance, photovoltaics and solar thermal materials, carbon-based nanomaterials in energy systems

Dr. Fanchini's activity encompasses the preparation of carbon-based and organic nanomaterials and their use for the fabrication of optical and electronic devices, including thin film transistors and solar cells. Materials that have been recently investigated include carbon nanotube networks, graphene nanoplatelets, conducting polymers and polyaromatic molecules. Specific characterization and modelling activities focus on spectroscopic investigation of electronic and solar cell devices during operation and involve the use of photothermal deflection spectroscopy, spectroscopic ellipsometry, solid-state electron-spin resonance, Kelvin-probe spectro-microscopy and near-field optical techniques.

Lyudmila Goncharova

Physics & Astronomy Building, Rm. 231
519 661-2111 ext 81558
Ion beam analysis and implantation, electronic materials, surface physics, reaction diffusion at interfaces, surface modification, high-resolution hydrogen profiling, quantum dots, particle-solid interactions, in-situ growth.

Dr. Lyudmila Goncharova is an expert in surface and interface characterization utilizing high and medium energy ion scattering elastic recoil detection analysis, and nuclear reaction analysis. The group’s scientific objectivesare to perform quantum dot preparation using ion implantation, as well as high-resolution ion profiling of thin film multilayered structures with focus on the interfaces, and the development of a more comprehensive model of interface structures that can be used in the design of interfaces for electronics, photonics and related applications. Additionally, the broader technological impact of this work will result in improving ion beam techniques for hydrogen detection and profiling to study novel materials for solar cell energy applications.

Liying Jiang

Alexander Charles Spencer Engineering Building, Rm. 3076
519 661-2111 ext 80422
Piezoelectric nanostructures in energy harvesting; mechanical properties of nanostructured materials; conductive nanocomposites; electromechanical coupling behaviour of nanoscale dielectric actuators and sensors. 

Dr. Jiang’s research interests and activities cover a wide range of solid and applied mechanics and materials engineering. One of her projects is focused on investigating the size-dependent properties of piezoelectric nanostructures in energy harvesting. Dr. Jiang’s other research topics include investigating the mechanical and electrical properties of conductive polymer nanocomposites by developing an efficient multi-scale modelling approach; investigating the mechanical properties of carbon nanotube, graphene, and the electromechanical coupling behaviour of nanoscale dielectric materials for applications as actuators and sensors.

George Knopf

Spencer Engineering Building, Rm 3087
519-661-2111 ext 88452
Engineering design; printable electronics; laser microfabrication; micro-optics; flexible optical sheets; biosensors and bioelectronics.

Professor Knopf’s laboratory involves an interdisciplinary group of researchers who explore new materials and fabrication techniques for creating the next generation of mechanically flexible optical and electronic devices, light-driven micromachines and wearable sensor systems. His research activities include: chemical synthesis of electrically conductive graphene-derivative inks; novel fabrication processes for printing optically transparent electrodes and circuitry on mechanically flexible substrates; design of microstructures for large area optical sheets; advanced laser material processing; and biologically-based light activated transducers. The long-term goal is to advance the design and fabrication methods used to create stretchable bioelectronic devices and bio-integrated systems.

François Lagugné-Labarthet

Material Science Addition, Rm. 0202
519 661-2111 ext 81006
Metallic nanostructures for photonics applications, advanced optical spectroscopy for nanomaterial characterization, fluorescence lifetime imaging.

Dr. Lagugné-Labarthet's scientific interest includes the development of high spatial resolution optical spectroscopy for nanomaterial characterization, as well as the design, modelling and fabrication of nanostructured plasmonics devices for high sensitivity sensing. More recently, he engaged with Robarts researchers in the spatial control of neuron growth using surface modification. He is involved in multiple collaborations within UWO and with other Canadian and European colleagues.

Silvia Mittler

Western Scient Centre, Rm. G9
519 661-2111 ext 88592
integrated optical sensors, gold nanoparticle sensors, thin films and interfaces, evanescent optical microscopy for cell-substrate interaction studies, evanescent optical tweezers, self-assembled monolayers as surface functionalization for chemo-sensors, aligned collagen, 2D nanopattern, polymeric materials for biocompatible surfaces, polarimetry, surface plasmon spectroscopy, evanescent absorption spectroscopy, waveguide spectroscopy.

Dr. Mittler's Laboratory for Photonics of Surfaces and Interfaces focuses on three major themes. One is evanescent microscopy, both fluorescence and scattering, to study ultrathin films, cell adhesion and biofilm formation on surfaces: here novel (polymeric) materials can be tested for biocompatibility, fouling or antifouling effects. The second theme addresses fabrication of functional surfaces to detect particular molecules (e.g., cancer marker) or creates a particular cellular response. This involves gold nanoparticles and localized surface plasmon spectroscopy, self-assembled monolayers or Langmuir-Blodgett films but also nano-structuring with holographic methods. Finally, the third theme considers new fundamental sensor platforms based on waveguide technology. Dr. Mittler engages in interdisciplinary research in particular when biological topics are addressed or new synthetic materials are involved.

Aaron Price

Spencer Engineering Building, Rm 3026A
519-661-2111 ext 86420
Smart material actuators and sensors, mechatronic systems for industrial automation and biomedical applications, additive manufacturing of advanced materials, conductive electroactive polymers and composites, magnetic and thermal shape memory materials, advanced biomedical technologies for better health.

Dr. Price’s research is focused on the nexus of smart materials and additive manufacturing technologies to realize novel biomedical devices. He has expertise in electroactive polymers, magnetic shape memory alloys, and piezo-transducers for sensing, energy harvesting, and actuation technologies.

T. K. Sham

Chemistry Building, Rm. B030A 
519 661-2111 ext 86341 
bio-compatible silicate and phosphates for drug delivery, biocompatibility of nanomaterials for drug delivery, Li-based materials for Li battery, nano-catalyst for fuel cells, OLED and optoelectronic materials, magnetism, nano-heterostructures, nanomaterials for electronic, optical and energy applications, C and Si-based materials, metal oxides, development and application of synchrotron radiation. 

Dr. Sham’s research covers the general area of the chemistry and electronic properties of materials and the development and application of synchrotron radiation, especially the interplay of electronic structure, materials properties and synchrotron techniques. His areas of expertise include nanomaterial synthesis with emphasis on C and Si-based materials as well as metal oxides, surface and interface, photoemission, x-ray absorption, photon-in photon-out spectroscopy (x-ray emission, x-ray excited optical luminescence, resonant and non-resonant inelastic x-ray scattering via the x-ray and the Auger channel) and x-ray microscopy. His recent interest concerns nanostructure assembly and proximity effects, light emitting phenomena from composite nanostructures in the energy and time domain, microbeam analysis of tissues, energy transfer dynamics in nanostructures and industrial materials for drug delivery, Li battery and fuel cell applications.

Peter Simpson

Physics & Astronomy Building, Rm. 210
519 661-2111 ext  83390 or 82102
Nanocrystal fabrication, positron annihilation.

Peter Simpson's group researches the production of silicon nanocrystals, or quantum dots, by a variety of fabrication methods. These structures exhibit light emission unlike bulk silicon, and they investigate the underlying physics of the light emission process as a step toward device engineering. Dr. Simpson also researches the application of positron annihilation as a technique to investigate open-volume defects in materials, and the use of 'defect engineering' to control or modify material properties.

Yang Song

Chemistry Building, Rm. 22
519 661-2111 ext 86310
Novel functional materials and nanomaterials under extreme conditions, energetic materials, hydrogen and CO2 storage materials.

Chemistry and materials research under extreme conditions, especially at high pressures, represent a prevailing interdisciplinary frontier area with profound implications in new functional materials and clean energy. In particular, the Song group is specialized in the investigation of molecular structures and materials properties under extremely high pressures using optical spectroscopy and synchrotron techniques. The recent research thrusts focus on several main themes, such as pressure-morphology tuning of one-dimensional nanomaterials, investigation of energetic materials, and development of hydrogen storage materials.

Mark Workentin

Chemistry Building, Rm. 223
519 661-2111 ext 86319
Physical organic chemistry of materials; material design, characterization and function.

Dr. Workentin specializes in the design and synthesis of photochemically and electrochemically responsive organic functionalized materials. The main goal is to develop a physical organic chemistry understanding of the structure-function relationships and factors that control chemical reactivity of these materials to aid in the building of new architectures for potential applications.

Jun Yang

Alexander Charles Spencer Engineering Building, Rm. 3089
519 661-2111 ext 80158
Nanomaterials for electronics, bio and environment: conductive polymer composite, functional surface engineering and antimicrobial/anti-biofouling materials. 

Dr. Yang’s lab focuses on developing functional materials and surfaces using green technologies. Specific applications include conductive polymer nanocomposites for flexible electronics, functional membranes for filtration and functional surfaces for antimicrobial/anti-biofouling purposes.